The New York Jets gained ground by staying on the ground.
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Shonn Greene and Bilal Powell combined for 155 yards rushing, each scoring on a short run, and the Jets improved their postseason chances with a 17-10 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday.
”Both those guys found holes because there were holes to be found,” Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez said. ”It was fun to watch.”
New York’s second straight win – third in four games – combined with losses by Pittsburgh and Cincinnati left coach Rex Ryan’s team a game out of the No. 6 seed in the AFC playoff picture.
And the Jets (6-7) have a favorable closing stretch that includes games against teams with losing records (Tennessee, San Diego and Buffalo). If they keep playing as they did in the second half against Jacksonville, they should have a chance to win them all.
The Jets were shut out at halftime for the second consecutive week, but they didn’t need to change quarterbacks to spark the offense this time around.
Instead, they just pounded the Jaguars (2-11) up the middle.
Greene finished with 77 yards rushing. Powell added 78 yards on the ground.
Greene scored on a 1-yard plunge in the third quarter, and Powell added a 4-yarder early in the fourth. Powell’s score made it 17-3 in a game that looked every bit like one featuring two of the NFL’s worst offenses.
Sanchez, benched last week in a 7-6 win against Arizona, was hardly a factor. Neither was backup Tim Tebow, who spent his homecoming on the sideline.
Although the Jaguars turned Sanchez’s first-half fumble into a field goal, he ended up having a decent day. He completed 12 of 19 passes for 111 yards, including a 37-yard completion on third down that helped the Jets milk the clock in the closing minutes.
”I tried to put extra emphasis on being smart with the ball,” Sanchez said. ”I thought it was a good, efficient day for all of us.”
Tebow was healthy enough to serve as New York’s backup quarterback in his hometown, but he never got off the bench. Tebow sat out the last two games while recovering from two broken ribs.
”I never felt comfortable enough to go with him in the wildcat,” Ryan said.
Ryan had planned to have all three quarterbacks active, including third-stringer Greg McElroy, but Joe McKnight’s migraine headache before the game prompted Ryan to suit up an extra running back.
The Jets ran it a bunch, too. They finished with 42 carries for 166 yards, including 26 for 116 yards in the second half.
”You’ve got to be the more physical team; to win in the NFL, that’s what you have to do,” Jaguars linebacker Paul Posluszny said. ”Coming into this game, we felt like the Jets were going to run the ball; we didn’t feel like they could beat us throwing the ball and then they rush for over a 100 yards. You have to give them credit. They were the more physical group, and that decided the game.”
The Jaguars were inept on offense most of the day, no surprise given how they have played at home in 2012.
Montell Owens seemed to catch the Jets by surprise on a second-and-17 play, running 32 yards for a touchdown that made it 17-10 with 7:06 remaining. He finished with 91 yards on 14 carries.
But Jacksonville mustered little else, clearly hampered without leading receiver Cecil Shorts III and left guard Mike Brewster. Shorts (concussion) and Brewster (hand) missed the game, and their backups were less than impressive.
Kevin Elliott dropped two passes and was flagged for illegal touching on a key play with about a minute left. Eben Britton was manhandled inside, giving up several sacks.
Still, the Jaguars had a chance late.
Chad Henne hooked up with Jordan Shipley for 28 yards on a fourth-and-15 play with 48 seconds remaining, moving the Jaguars into Jets territory. But Ellis Lankster ended with the game with an interception – one that came two plays after Elliott stripped a near-pick out of his hands.
Bigger turning points came in the first half.
The Jaguars looked like they would get points on their opening possession, but Henne’s pass was tipped and intercepted by Bart Scott near the goal line.
Equally gut-wrenching for the Jacksonville was Dwight Lowery’s touchdown return that was overturned in the second quarter. Lowery picked up Jeremy Kerley’s fumble and took it 62 yards for an apparent score that would have given Jacksonville a 10-0 lead. But officials reviewed the play and ruled that Kerley had touched Lowery down. The Jaguars punted five plays later.
”We need things like that to happen for our team to help us win and help us with momentum,” Jaguars coach Mike Mularkey said. ”We’re coming up short with them in one way or another.”
Notes: Jets rookie WR Stephen Hill injured his right knee in the second quarter and did not return. Ryan said tests would determine the extent of the injury. ”Hopefully it’s not too severe,” Ryan said. The Jets already have WR Santonio Holmes on injured reserve. … Owens’ rushing touchdown was his first since December 2008. … Owens, CB Derek Cox and TE Marcedes Lewis all left the game for Jacksonville, but later returned.